Beer Man

The hoppiest beers in the world: the annual contest during #GABF switches locations

The Alpha King Challenge, a low-key hoppy-beer contest that takes place every year during the Great American Beer Festival, will move this October from the Falling Rock Taphouse, which has hosted it for thirteen years, to the Rock Bottom Restaurant.

The move seems like a strange one for Hopunion, the hop marketing firm that organizes the challenge, since the Alpha King Challenge has a built-in following at Falling Rock, which serves as a beer-drinking Mecca during the festival each year, but Hopunion spokeswoman Melody Meyer says the organization needed more space.

See also - Updated: The Great American Beer Festival 2012 calendar of awesome events - Hop Vivant, Vine Street's championship beer, will put you in a hoppy daze - Pizza Port ousts Mountain Sun in Alpha King Challenge at Falling Rock

"We are extremely grateful to Falling Rock and for all the service they've provided over the years. They've been fabulous," she says. But we are always expanding."

There will be at least 150 entries into the Challenge, which is held to determine the hoppiest beer in the universe, up from 110 in 2011.

Hopunion chose Rock Bottom on the 16th Street Mall, Meyer says, because "we wanted to stay associated with others in the craft industry and we wanted a place where GABF attendees would still be able to come and go easily near the festival."

Rock Bottom is owned by CraftWorks, which also owns the Old Chicago and Gordon Biersch chains, along with various specialty restaurants like the ChopHouse.

The Challenge, which has been sponsored by Hopunion, Brewing News Publications and Three Floyds Brewing, will be held at 1 p.m. on October 12 and it will maintain the same format as always. It is named for a Three Floyd's beer.

All entries have to be submitted by a commerical brewery and have a minimum of 60 IBUs (a measurement that determines bitterness) to be considered. A team of brewers and veteran beer writers will judge the beers; leftovers, if there are any, are typically poured in a very haphazard fashion for the public to sample.

Jeff Bagby, the former head brewer of Pizza Port in Carlsbad, California, has won the last two years, but left Pizza Port last year. Colorado's only victory came in 2009 when Mountain Sun and brewer Brian Hutchinson took the top honor for Hop Vivant.

"Hopefully, it will be a fierce competition," Meyer says, "and may the best brewery win."

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Jonathan Shikes is a Denver native who writes about business and beer for Westword.
Contact: Jonathan Shikes